Album of the Year and Record of the Year — the Difference Between the 2 Grammy Awards Explained

The 2021 Grammy Awards are here. Before the biggest award show in music airs on March 14, 2021, get to know the difference between Record of the Year and Album of the Year. Learn what differentiates the Grammy award categories from one another, plus find out who is nominated for both.

How does an album qualify for an Album of the Year Grammy? 

Adele poses with her Grammy awards on Feb. 12, 2012, during the Grammy Awards
Adele at the 2012 Grammy Awards | Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

According to the Grammy Awards official website, for an album to be eligible for Album of the Year it has to meet a few requirements per the guidelines established by the Recording Academy’s Awards Department.

To be considered, an album has to have a minimum of five different tracks and a total playing time of 15 minutes. Another option is that the album has a total playing time of 30 minutes or more with no set number of tracks. 

Notice on the complete list of Grammy nominees, at the top of the categories before the list of nominees, there’s a short description about the award and how it’s determined.

For instance, Album of the Year is given to any artist, featured artist, or songwriter “of new material,” producer, recording engineer, mixer, and mastering engineer “credited with at least 33% playing time of the album.”

Basically, Album of the Year is awarded to those who worked on a series of tracks. 

What is Record of the Year and how is it different from Album of the Year?

Don’t let this category conjure up images of record players or a vinyl collection. In this instance, as it pertains to Record of the Year, “record” simply means song. Think of a record as a single or one song. The award is given based on production and performance. 

So, how is Record of the Year different from Song Of The Year? This one can get a little confusing, especially after learning Record of the Year goes to one song just like Song Of The Year.


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According to the Grammy Awards official website, Song Of The Year is for songwriters given to those who release a track or single within a certain time period. For the 2021 Grammy Awards, the eligibility period is Sept. 1, 2019, to Aug. 31, 2020.

2021 Album of the Year nominees

These are the 2021 nominees for Album of the Year.

2021 Record of the Year nominees

These are the 2021 nominees for Record of the Year:

  • “Black Parade” – Beyoncé
  • “Colors” – Black Pumas
  • “Rockstar” – DaBaby featuring Roddy Ricch
  • “Say So” – Doja Cat
  • “Everything I Wanted” – Billie Eilish
  • “Circles” – Post Malone
  • “Savage” – Meghan Thee Stallion Featuring Beyoncé
  •  “Don’t Start Now” – Dua Lipa

Watch Trevor Noah host the Grammy Awards on March 14, 2021, at 8 p.m. EST on CBS.